Interview

Prof. Datuk Ts. Dr. Ahmad Rafi Mohamed Eshaq

President/CEO of Multimedia University (MMU)

We are a trailblazer for the ICT and Creative Multimedia sectors, which is fully in line with the government’s aspiration of developing the knowledge economy of the country. MMU is truly a pioneer in technology-driven programmes.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Can you introduce MMU and tell us more about what the university is known for?

PROF. AHMAD RAFI: Multimedia University, or MMU, is one of Malaysia leading private universities that was established more than two decades ago. At the time, the Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir came to us, the founding members of the university, and shared with us his dream for MMU to fully function as a private university with non-traditional programmes and courses that focus on cutting-edge technology. Our first campus was based in Melaka before we expanded to the main campus in Cyberjaya, and subsequently another campus was opened in Johor.

The university now hosts nearly 18,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, of whom more than 1,500 consist of international students from over 70 countries.

We are a trailblazer for the ICT and Creative Multimedia sectors, which is fully in line with the government’s aspiration of developing the knowledge economy of the country. For example, I joined MMU in 1998, having just returned to Malaysia after completing my PhD. studies in architectural animation and virtual reality in the UK. One of my earliest tasks was to introduce games and animation courses at MMU. At that time, the gaming industry in Malaysia was at infancy stage, so we had difficulties convincing people that there was a future in this. Now, the gaming industry is booming worldwide. This shows that MMU is truly a pioneer in technology-driven programmes.

MMU was accorded the status of a Premier Digital Tech Institution by the Malaysian government since 2017, and the university is now officially recognised as one of the best places in the country to pursue computer and technology-related programmes. On average, more than 90 per cent of MMU’s graduates are able to secure employment within six months of completing their studies. Ambitious students looking to further their studies at the foundation, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate levels in the fields of Engineering, Information & Communication Technology, Creative Multimedia, Cinematic Arts, Business and Management, Finance, Accounting, Law, Life Science, and Strategic Communication.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How does MMU close the gap between academia and industry professionals to deliver value to your students?

PROF. AHMAD RAFI: We have set up MMU Cnergy, which is the commercial arm of the university, with the primary objective to instill knowledge and innovation through short courses, industry collaborations, intellectual property licensing, and building businesses. We also offer consulting services to companies in the fields of ICT.

What sets MMU lecturers and staff apart is that we have extensive linkages with the industry. Among our teaching staff are industry specialists with decades of professional experience, lending them an edge when it comes to understanding market demands and trends. On top of that, we are also able to leverage on a well-established network of alumni who are now leaders in their respective fields.

A very good example of how MMU tightly integrates related industries with its teaching and learning process comes from our Faculty of Cinematic Arts, which is located in Johor. The Bachelor of Cinematic Arts (Honours) programme delivered there is highly fits with industry needs very well for three reasons, with the first being that it was jointly developed with the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, which is located right next to Hollywood and has produced numerous Hollywood renowned players including George Lucas. Secondly, the campus is fully outfitted with state-of-the-art cinematic production equipment at the disposal of the students. The third factor is that the MMU Johor Campus is located very close to the Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, which is part of the renowned Pinewood Studios Group, and our students are presented with the opportunity to practice their craft for real. All these factors come together and make our cinematic graduates among the best in the country and the region have ever seen.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: What are the values that MMU bases its teachings upon?

PROF. AHMAD RAFI: MMU is steadfast in being the preferred university in this current era of globalisation, focusing on pioneering research, outstanding teaching, and continuous improvement of our programmes in keeping pace with fast-changing technologies.

Now, our priority is to create awareness on humanising technology. MMU is built upon the principle of safeguarding human values in the research and application of technology. That means sharing best practices and always be mindful that technology has its limitations.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: How do you promote creativity and entrepreneurship?

PROF. AHMAD RAFI: Nobody can work alone in this day and age. At MMU, we create an environment for students, teachers, alumni and industry specialists to work together. That is why our campus is full of open spaces – we want to spark communication with each other.
We encourage teams that are from different faculties to create and pitch business proposals. They will receive guidance or input from our alumni or industry specialists, and their business innovations may even get incubated by the university. Through such collaboration, students learn that one problem can be approached from many ways.

ASEAN BUSINESS LEADERS: Where is MMU headed in the near future?

PROF. AHMAD RAFI: MMU has been in the education sector for more than two decades, and we have been through many changes and improvements, but we maintain our mission – to achieve the highest standards of performance in teaching and in the services we offer to our students, staff and community.

Facing this dynamic industry landscape, it is high time for us to relook on their current business model, how the future model might be, and how best to integrate industry and academia as basis of creating graduates for the 21st Century. For example, recently MMU has collaborated with one of the international e-sport company to prepare and develop e-sports champions and new talents.

This is one, out of many evidences, to reflect on how MMU, as an industry trendsetter university, always poised to take up bold and robust step in its business model by taking the lead in the education sector to stay relevant.